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Kids learn about dangers of smoking

February 21, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Viewing photographs of nicotine-stained teeth and cancer-ridden tongues isn't the way most children like to spend their weekends.

But that's what happened for a few hours Saturday afternoon at North Street School in Hagerstown.

About 30 children and their parents gathered at the school to attend a meeting of the Neighborhood Youth Club, an organization that promotes black history and teaches children about the dangers of smoking.

Hagerstown resident Daphne Hughes said she brought her five children to the event so they could see for themselves the health problems that are associated with smoking.

"I'm definitely an advocate of (the youth club)," Hughes said. "I want them to see the actual health risks. It pays off in the long run."

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Andy Smith, president of Brothers United Who Dare To Care, an organization that provides outreach to minorities, said Saturday's event was paid for using a portion of a $24,000 stipend that he recently received from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"We started off our program today with a short quiz that our youth club members were able to provide answers for ... to find out what they could do to help with a serious problem that we don't want to be able to cut short the lives of our black achievers," Smith said.

Among other things, the quiz helped the children learn that smoking leads to more deaths in Maryland than AIDS, accidents and fires, and that almost 500,000 Americans die each year from tobacco use.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner and mayoral candidate Jonathan R. Burrs also attended the event.

Burrs told the audience about Skate Don't Smoke Roller Jams 2009, an anti-tobacco initiative that he recently created to educate all races. On the first Saturday of every month, families are invited to skate for free from 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at Turner's Skating Palace on Virginia Avenue.

Burrs said the program offers a way for families to learn about the ills of tobacco use while having a good time.

"We want to take this thing statewide," Burrs said. "We want to focus on getting a healthy Maryland."

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